It’s never gonna work. Has there ever been a sentence responsible for more great rock and roll? Like Tina Turner without Ike, Genesis without Peter Gabriel, or Dylan with an electric guitar, people said Metaphysical Change — Nate Bergman’s blues steeped, country-inflected solo debut — was never gonna work.
Not only because Bergman is a curly haired Jewish kid who sounds like Sam Cooke after 400 cigarettes. Not only because all his great country-music-stories were written in the heart of metropolitan DC. No. Metaphysical Change was never gonna work because Nate Bergman got stuck overseas when the lockdowns hit.
Thousands of miles away from his collaborators, studio and family, Bergman began recording demos all on his own, playing every instrument and stacking harmonies of his own voice. Nate felt Europe leaving its mark on songs like “Ode to Manchester” and “Goodbye Munich” just as isolation and loneliness began to leave their marks on songs like “Dark Horse, Sweet Horse” and “Into My Arms”— songs so full of longing, they just might burst inside your speakers.
But Nate Bergman’s not the type to give in and crawl up his own asshole. He’s no stranger to overcoming long odds or pulling people together for the common good. You can’t tour as the band leader for the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry if you ain’t got heart. So Nate did what he does best and sent the demos out to friends and strangers alike, pulling a hugely diverse, enormously talented group of musicians together to flesh out Metaphysical Change.
Tyler Bryant rips the solo of the year on “Highway Friend.” Brit Turner from Blackberry Smoke makes “Living on the Line” move and shake, paired up with Karina Rykman’s Bass. And Lucero/Chuck Reagan collaborator, Todd Beane, brings a handle of whiskey to soak the slide guitars on “Ode to Manchester.” If that makes Metaphysical Change sound like a who’s who of Southern Fried rock and roll, please understand that Nate’s roster is as deep as his musical scope is wide: Frank Iero, guitarist of My Chemical Romance, scorches the earth all over Metaphysical Change, bringing with him Tucker Rule from Thursday to lay the punishing beat for “Repeats Until You Die.” Art Metal giant, Opeth’s, Per Wiberg trades deep and menacing bass lines with Skindred’s Dan Pugsley. Travis Stever of modern proggers, Coheed and Cambria, and Michael Ward from the Wallflowers/Ben Harper Band both turn in stunning guitar tracks.
Such a crazy lineup, “It’s never gonna work.” Cue Nashville mega-producer, Vance Powell, who ties the record in a bright red, radio-ready bow. The sparkling mix and sweeping harmonies of Deborah Bond & Rona Rawls provide the through line for all these different styles and personalities, grounding the record around its essential ingredient: Nate Bergman’s powerful, inimitable voice. This the thing about Metaphysical Change— the record that’s never gonna work— IT FUCKING WORKS. And it just might be the rock and roll debut of the year.
“It’s never gonna work.”